CUSTODY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. How do I change an existing order for custody?
A motion to modify a custody order must be filed with the court, or the parents can sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and order), which if approved by the court, will change custody. The Friend of the Court cannot file a motion for you.
2. Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a motion for custody. However, there are many complicated issues involved in a custody case. Therefore you may want to have an attorney represent you. The Friend of the Court cannot file a motion for custody for you.
3. Is there any way the court can assist us in reaching an agreement on custody?
The Friend of the Court provides Domestic Relations Conciliation. (See page 5 of this Handbook). Conciliation is a process where a Friend of the Court conciliator assists in settling a custody dispute (See page 9 of this Handbook). The parties may also agree to a private mediation service offered by people with skills and special training in domestic matters who are paid a “fee for service” by the parties.
4. After a motion for custody has been filed, and we cannot reach our own agreement, what does the Friend of the Court have to do?
The Friend of the Court, at the direction of the Court, is required to do any of the following:
(1) Offer conciliation services to the parties.
(2) Conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation to the court based on the factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act.
(3) Conduct a full evidentiary hearing before a trained attorney referee.
5. Do I have the right to receive a copy of the Friend of the Court report and recommendation on custody?
The Friend of the Court will provide a copy of the Friend of the Court report and recommendation to each party, or their attorney.
6. What will happen if I have an order for custody and the other parent does not return the child to me as stated in the court order?
You have several choices:
(1) You may contact your attorney to bring a “show cause” or contempt proceeding against the other party;
(2) Discuss the issue with the other party. If no improvement, file a written parenting time complaint form with the Friend of the Court office. If the complaint is deemed valid, the Friend of the Court will send a copy of the complaint to the other parent and give them 21 days to respond to the complaint. The Friend of the Court may take actions as set forth in MCL 552.641 if the circumstances warrant enforcement or;
(3) You may contact the police agency where you live to request an investigation into possible kidnapping charges if you have reason to believe that the other parent intends to keep the child.
7. Does the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?
Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Protective Services-Department of Human Services office, phone number 1-855-444-3911.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS REGARDING SUPPORT
1. Do I need to have an attorney to get an order for support?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a motion for support in a divorce action. However, an attorney may be helpful when filing papers and following specific rules. For paternity and family support actions, the Prosecuting Attorney can assist you with the filing of a petition for support.
2. Does the Friend of the Court and the Judge have to use the Child Support Formula or the Friend of the Court recommendations when setting support orders?
The Child Support Formula and the Friend of the Court recommendation are used to assist the Judge in making a decision concerning support amounts. The Friend of the Court, your attorneys, and the Judge must follow the guidelines unless they establish a clear reason why the child support formula is unjust or inappropriate, and that a “deviation” therefore best meets the needs of the child.
3. If I have been paying my child support and the custodial parent is not allowing parenting time, do I have to keep paying support?
Yes, parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures (See parenting time enforcement section).
4. The non-custodial parent is not paying support. What can I do?
Contact the Friend of the Court, in writing, and request enforcement if the back support equals payments of four weeks or more. You may also contact an attorney to file an enforcement action.
5. The payer of support is self-employed and not making his or her support payments. What can the Friend of the Court do?
Income withholding orders are not usually effective when a payer is self-employed. In these cases, the Friend of the Court may seek enforcement using one or more of the following options.
(1) Petitioning the court for a show cause hearing.
(2) Submitting the payer's name for tax intercept.
(3) File a lien on the payer's property.
Contact your Friend of the Court office for further information concerning these options.
6. My court order states that I am to pay support through the MiSDU. Can I pay the support to the custodial parent directly.
NO! Support is paid through the MiSDU in order that an official record of payments is maintained. It is done for the protection of both parties and the children. After 10/1/04 credit will not be given for child support paid directly, except for periods before the support order is signed by the Judge.
7. If child support has been ordered by the court and either parent has a major increase or decrease in income, what can be done?
If either party has had a large increase or decrease in income, they may wish to contact the Friend of the Court to request a review of the support order (see Support Modification Section). Either party may also file a motion with the Court if
there has been a significant
change in circumstances.
If the payer and payee can mutually agree to a change in support order, the agreement must be placed on a Uniform Support Order and it must be signed by both parties. If money is owed to the State, the Order must provide for payment of the money owed to the State. That agreement will be entered as an order, if approved by the court.
8. If I am receiving public assistance, do I still get child support?
If you have questions regarding public assistance, contact your local DHS support specialist.
9. Is the Friend of the Court responsible for making sure that child support money is being spent on the child?
The law does not give the Friend of the Court the right to question how child support payments are spent. It is presumed that the custodial parent is making reasonable efforts to meet the child’s needs.
10. If my parental rights are terminated, does my child support stop?
Child support does not stop automatically when parental rights are terminated. There must be an order stopping child support or an Order for Adoption entered to stop child support.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS REGARDING PARENTING TIME
1. What if my Court order does not address parenting time?
If your court order or Judgment does not set forth parenting time rights, either party may file a motion to establish parenting time, which will be referred to the Ingham County Friend of the Court for a recommendation to the Court. Assistance in preparing motions for, or objections to, parenting time may be obtained through private counsel or by attending the monthly FOC General Informational Meeting. (See page 31)
2. My parenting time order states I have "reasonable rights of parenting time." What does this mean?
The Ingham County Family Division Judges have adopted the Reasonable Rights of Parenting Time policy attached to this Handbook as Attachment D.
3. What does abutting parenting time mean?
Abutting is defined as resuming parenting time in a time frame that is not greater than 24 hours. If a party has holiday parenting time and their regularly scheduled parenting time will resume within a period of time not greater than 24 hours, the parenting time will be continuous. This is the practice of the Friend of the Court, even if it is not specifically stated in your court order.
4. Even if we have a specific schedule outlined in the court order, can we make our own verbal/written agreement to change the parenting time?
Parties are always free to make their own verbal/written agreements but the Friend of the Court can only enforce the language in the court order signed by the Judge.
5. Does the other party still get their summer parenting time even if they did not submit their dates per the date stated in their court order?
Yes, unless the court order states differently. The party may not receive the first choice of their
6. I have a specific parenting time schedule that I need to change. What can I do?
If you need a temporary change in your parenting time schedule, first contact the other parent to discuss making other arrangements. Remember, it is important that you plan ahead where significant events (weddings, vacations, graduations, etc.) are concerned. If you are unable to reach agreement with the other party, you may consider filing a motion to have the temporary change become the order of the court.
If you need to make a permanent change,
A) See if you and the other parent can agree to a change (stipulation and order). Remember -- mutual accommodation for the sake of the children should always be the rule!
B) File a motion with the Clerk of the Court. Once a Referral Order is received, the Friend of the Court can provide parenting time/conciliation services, if both parties agree to participate.
C) File a petition with the court clerk for a change in the court order on your own behalf or contact an attorney to help you file the petition.
D) Attend an Informational Meeting to learn how to file a petition for modification.
7. If the parent exercising parenting time is not making regular child support payments, do I have to allow parenting time?
YES! Parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures (see support enforcement section).
8. The other party is not following the parenting time order (i.e., children not ready for parenting time on time; children are picked up and/or returned late.) What can I do?
Discuss the issue with the other party. If no improvement, file a written parenting time complaint form with the Friend of the Court office. If the complaint is deemed valid, the Friend of the Court will send a copy of the complaint to the other parent and give them 21 days to respond to the complaint. The Friend of the Court may take actions as set forth in MCL 552.641 if the circumstances warrant.
Most Judges would consider anything more than one-half hour (30 minutes) tardiness to be a violation of the court order, unless excused because of special circumstances. Remember, the 30 minutes should not be utilized as extra parenting time. Continued tardiness may be considered a violation Complaints are available in our office or at www.ingham.org/fc/foc.htm.
9. Clothing is not sent for or returned from parenting time. Is there anything the Friend of the Court can do?
No, the Friend of the Court does not enforce this issue. Suggestion: Most judges will indicate that clothing belongs to the children, not the parents. Older children are responsible for their own clothing.
10. Do I have to let my children go for parenting time if it appears that the parent exercising parenting time has been drinking or using drugs?
Any denial of parenting time is a violation of the order. You may be ordered to explain to the Judge at a contempt hearing why you disobeyed the court order. Full substantiation of your allegation of substance or other abuse will be essential. If you believe that the health and safety of your children require that parenting time should not be taking place as ordered then it is your responsibility to petition the court for a change in your order to restrict the parenting time.
11. I am concerned about the other parent discussing changes in the court order with the children. What can the Friend of the Court do?
The Friend of the Court has no enforcement jurisdiction over this issue.
12. The Friend of the Court has refused to enforce my parenting time order. What can I do?
The law requires the Friend of the Court to enforce parenting time orders where there is clear evidence of violation. (But the parties must bear the responsibility of cooperating.) If the Friend of the Court refuses to take action, you may file a motion with the Court.
13. Does the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?
The Friend of the Court does not have responsibility to investigate child abuse or neglect. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Child Protective Services central reporting number (855-444-3911).
14. What if there has been a lapse in parenting time?
If there has been a lapse in parenting time greater than 90 days, the non-custodial parent shall be required to submit in writing a letter which outlines the intent to resume parenting time as ordered by the Court. This intent must clearly set forth contact information as well as a reasonable date for the parenting time to resume; at least 14 days from the date the letter is sent to the custodial parent. THE LETTER SHOULD BE SENT TO THE CUSTODIAL PARENT WITH A COPY TO THE FRIEND OF THE COURT. If the custodial parent's address is confidential, the non-custodial parent should bring the letter along with a self addressed stamped envelope to the Friend of the Court office who will send it to the other party. If you are denied parenting time after making a physical attempt to exercise parenting time in accordance with the letter, the non-custodial parent may file a written parenting time complaint with the Friend of the Court office for review.
15. I have a parenting time order, and my child does not want to come for parenting time. What can I do?
The parents of the child are bound by the court order. However, you may consider one or more of the following:
A) You may want to see if you can work out a different parenting time arrangement with the child and the other parent.
B) You can file a motion with the court clerk requesting a change in your parenting time order, or requesting enforcement of the order.
C) You can request that the Friend of the Court enforce your parenting time order (See Parenting Time Enforcement Section).
16. Birthday parenting time, are all the children expected to go?
Yes, the Friend of the Court views this as the opportunity for all of the minor children to participate in the birthday festivities.